Bude was a typical sawmill town fifty or sixty years ago. During the week, the seven o’clock whistle started every workday. The five o’clock whistle told workers to go home, rest and get ready for the next day.
You could buy whiskey and beer across the railroad tracks if that’s what you wanted. The county was dry, you had to go to Adams or Jefferson County to be legal.
Once a year, there was a Come to Jesus meeting.
The Preacher flew in to town in his airplane. He would land over in Natchez, then ride a Cadillac to the Little League field east of town.
His men had already put up the tent. It looked like something straight from a circus.
The tent was a half acre of dirty white canvas with some red trim. They had set up five hundred folding chairs, row after row. They left an open aisle down the middle.
The stage was four or five feet off the ground and big enough for a choir. An electric organ sat over on one side. Of course, there was the pulpit and a microphone, standing tall in the middle. A couple of loudspeakers on each side.
When it was hot and they thought it wouldn’t rain, they rolled the flaps up, so passersby could see inside. There was plenty of parking all around.
A big sign out front said “Revival – Crusade”
Around six o’clock the music started. One hymn after another, the loudspeakers pushing the sound into the neighborhood. People flocked together, some wearing their Sunday best, others came in their work clothes. Some walked, most drove and parked on the grass.
The service started at seven o’clock, the revival would last a week.
At the back, some people from the funeral home handed out cardboard fans. It was already hot. The preacher was about to turn up the heat.
A local preacher always started the night with a prayer. A local church choir sang two or three hymns. A music minister stood out in front.
Most everyone knew some of the words. The crowd would sing along.
Make a joyful noise.
Sometimes a local couple sang a duet or there would be a solo. Everyone was ready.
The preacher stood up and walked to the pulpit. He turned to thank the local preacher, then he thanked the choir and bragged on how good they were.
He faced the crowd. He raised his arms, a Bible in one hand.
And he preached.
He was loud. He was forceful. At times, he loosened his tie. It was that kind of hot. He was deadly serious. He wanted us all going to Heaven. He warned us about going to Hell. He told stories about sinners being saved and those non-believers who perished.
Sometimes, he’d have to fight off the bugs and insects drawn to the bright lights on the stage, but he kept on preaching.
He scared a lot of people.
And, before he quit for the night, he passed the plate.
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